Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Trip to Carmichael's Kids in Louisville

I love to visit bookstores! Recently my summer bookstore road trip brought me back to Louisville, Kentucky. I've been there twice before, once for a bookseller conference and once on my own, just because I wanted to go on vacation somewhere new.

My earlier trip continues to come up in conversation whenever someone's talking about Louisville food. I organized my first trip so I'd get a Hot Brown (it's an open-faced sandwich), Modjeskas (it's a candy), Derby pie (it's trademarked), For some reason, having a glass of bourbon didn't make my list. Amusingly enough, here's a blog that pretty much sums up my Louisville eating, and she even stayed at the Brown Hotel. I had a hotel detour, as I first stayed at a hotel (not to be named) that smelled like ketchup and cigarettes and had broken furniture in my first room as well as the room I was moved to. This time I stayed at a Drury Inn along the freeway. it had a very high rating in Trip Advisor.

Unlike my first trip, where I toured the Louisville Slugger factory and Churchill Grounds, and took a long walk through the city, passing by a very pungent slaughterhouse, this was a much shorter trip and my focus was bookstores, most notably Carmichael's. Aside from dinner with Kelly from Carmichael's and my sales rep friends Johanna and Bob, I did little besides visit this fabulous sculpture of bowling bowls (at right). 

I made a return visit to their locations on Bardstown Road and Frankfort Avenues, and made a virgin voyage to their new children's store, across the street. While the stores are not strangers to moving (each location has moved at least once), they chose to open a new storefront in the Highlands (that's the Bardstown Road neighborhood) instead of expanding in a new location with room for a kids store. In my years of bookselling, I've seen both options be successful. Square Books has Square Books Jr. a block away in Oxford, Mississippi, while Harry W. Schwartz had a separate kids bookstore in Brookfield for several years, until we expanded again and combined the two stores. 

The nice thing is that a separate kids bookstore gives you the opportunity for a distinctive personality. Carmichael's kids had chalk board category headings and a library ladder. Bins below the books held gift items, and we got some nice ideas for products. I spoke to three dedicated kids booksellers. We traded ideas on books that were working, public events, and school visits. There's nothing like a little networking! We're sharing Ben Hatke, for example. Our public event is Tuesday, October 4, 6:30 pm, at Cudahy Family Library.

Of course I wanted to buy something, so I asked about local authors. After a few options, I wound up purchasing Saving Wonder, written by Lexington-based Mary Knight. It's a first novel that takes place in Wonder Gap, a small coal town outside of Lexington. Curley is twelve and has already been through a lot. His dad died in a mining accident and his mom and little brother were killed in a slurry landslide. Now he lives with Papaw. There was a settlement for the second accident but Papaw decided to take it off the books.

Curley's best friend is Jules, but like many friendships in middle grade books, a newcomer is going to cause havoc with this relationship. In this case, it's J.D., whose moved down from Indiana. He is rather cool, with a nose ring and everything, but his most notable connection is that his father is the new owner of the area coal mining business.

The three of them wind up being brought together to work on a project about the extinct Eastern Elk, but it's when Curley leans that J.D.'s dad is planning to start mining nearby Red Hawk Mountain that they really bond. The relationship's are complicated. J.D. doesn't really get along with his dad, who has recently separated from J.D.'s mom. Jules's mom is very active in environmental issues, a city woman whose gone back to the land. A Cherokee woman comes to help - the mountain may have sacred importance. And Curley's family has been, needless to say, hurt by the coal industry more than they've been helped. 

In some ways, it reminded me of a new book coming out soon, Gertie's Leap to Greatness, by Kate Beasley. (There's a lot of buzz on this book - we can get you a signed copy when she visits schools for us in October - just request on your order.) In that case, the issue is offshore oil drilling instead of coal mining, but there are a lot of parallels. And in that case, Gertie's dad is still employed by the oil company, making Gertie see the situation differently - she's the kid on the other side of the controversy. In Curley's case, there doesn't seem to be anybody except J.D.'s dad who is making the argument for the coal company, which was definitely not what I expected from a small Appalachian town. But that's not case here.

In the end, Curley has to come to terms with change, whatever happens to the mountain. And that's a lesson everyone can agree on - change is the only constant. Saving Wonder was an interesting and enjoyable book - I particularly enjoyed Curley's slowly developing friendship with J.D., despite being predisposed to not like him - it was just the right thing to buy at a Kentucky bookstore. 

Continuing my trail of Appalachian reading*, now I've started reading Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance's bestselling memoir about growing up in Ohio and Kentucky. But I didn't buy this one at Carmichael's. I found it on an old pile of galleys I was clearing out. 

*Boswellian Chris would recommend reading Crapalachia next. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Just one event but three authors this week--Ada Palmer, Leanna Renee Hieber, and Mary Robinette Kowal on Wednesday, August 31, 7 pm at Boswell.

Just one event this week! Anne and I read Ghost Talkers (as did Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel) and Jason's reading Too Like the Lightning. One of the folks in Jason's science fiction book club did a Skype talk with Palmer at one of his other science fiction book clubs. Here's all the info.

Wednesday, August 31, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
A mini science fiction convention with Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Ghost Talkers, Leanna Renee Hieber, author of Eterna and Omega, and Ada Palmer, author of Too Like the Lightning

Join three beacons of the science fiction and fantasy world, Ada Palmer, Leanna Renee Hieber, and Mary Robinette Kowal, for a spirited conversation about their new books, writing, and who knows what else? It’s like having a science fiction and fantasy convention back in Milwaukee, only a really tiny one. Boswell-con, anyone?

Having just completed her Glamourist Histories cycle, Chicago’s Mary Robinette Kowal offers up Ghost Talkers, a just-released novel featuring the mysterious spirit corps and their heroic work in World War I.From Jim Higgins: "In this alterna-England of 1916, Stuyvesant and other members of the Spirit Corps speak with the ghosts of recently deceased British soldiers, who have been ingeniously conditioned to report back to the living before they are drawn off by the famed bright light on the other side (Kowal has recurring fun with the way departing spirits react to that light). The ghostly soldiers provide intelligence on the activity and position of German forces — in fact, their information is so valuable, the true mission of the Spirit Corps is hidden under innocuous cover."

Leanna Renee Hieber continues her gaslamp fantasy series in Eterna and Omega, the sequel to The Eterna Chronicles. Hieber continues the story of the Victorian investigators charged by the queen to find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna. And now, in Eterna and Omega, Harold Spire dispatches Rose Everhart and the team of assassins, magicians, mediums, and other rogue talents to New York, staying behind to track down a network of body snatchers and occultists, but American paranormal investigator Clara Templeton has buried information vital to the Eterna Compound, which is either a worldwide menace or the key to humanity's salvation.

From Ada Palmer, we present Too Like the Lightning, the first book of Terra Ignota, a four-book political SF epic set in a human future of extraordinary originality. Palmer has created a hard-won uptopian world built on technologically created abundance and the complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech, with normal gender distinctions now distinctly taboo, and economic and cultural competition carefully managed by central planners.

Jason Heller at NPR writes:"The plot is knotty, but it's nothing compared to the tangle of ideas at play. Palmer, a professor at the University of Chicago with a doctorate from Harvard, packs a textbook's worth of learning into Lightning. Historical references abound, as do bits of economics, genetics, and sociology. Politics, though, lies at the heart of the book. The world Palmer creates is extraordinarily intricate, with forces and organizations forming a delicate web of tenuous coexistence."

About the authors: Mary Robinette Kowal is the 2008 recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, a multiple Hugo winner, and a frequent finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. A professional puppeteer and voice actor, she spent five years touring nationally with puppet theaters. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and nine manual typewriters.

Leanna Renee Hieber is the winner of two Prism Awards and a finalist for the Daphne Du Maurier Award. Rarely seen out of Victorian garb, Hieber often appears at conventions, bookstores, and library events.

Ada Palmer is a professor in the history department of the University of Chicago, specializing in Renaissance history and the history of ideas. Her first nonfiction book, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press. She is also a composer of folk and Renaissance-tinged a capella music, most of which she performs with the group Sassafrass. She writes about history for a popular audience at and about SF and fantasy-related matters at

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Boswell's annotated bestseller list for the week ending August 27, plus the Journal Sentinel reviews

Here's what's selling at Boswell?

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Damage Control, by Michael Bowen (also paperback)
2. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
3. Surrender New York, by Caleb Carr
4. Heroes of the Frontier, by Dave Eggers
5. The Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown
6. The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore
7. Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory
8. The Girls, by Emma Cline
9. Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty
10. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson (event 10/21 at Centennial Hall)

Philippa Gregory's Three Sisters, Three Queens has been called "a gripping new Tudor story featuring King Henry VIII's sisters Mary and Margaret, along with Katherine of Aragon, vividly revealing the pivotal roles the three queens played in Henry VIII's kingdom." Told from the perspective of Margaret, Kirkus Reviews wrote that "Gregory’s take on the (largely male-determined) fortunes of three Tudor women is venal, petty, and jaundiced but never dull." There's a Starz series coming this fall, per Variety.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Ten Ways Not to Ccommit Suicide, by Darryl DMC McDaniels
2. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer
3. I Contain Multitudes, by Ed Young
4. Seinfeldia, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (ticketed event 9/12 at The Soup House, $6.17 includes a bowl of soup!)
5. White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg
6. Paper, by Mark Kurlansky
7. Milwaukee City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
8. Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
9. Eviction, by Matthew Desmond
10. Grit, by Angela Duckworth

I've heard not one but two interesting interviews with Ed Young just by turning on NPR while driving. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. Stephen Curry writes in The Guardian: "From this treasure-trove of research Yong pulls story after story: how luminescent bacteria colonise and control the development of light-emitting organs in the Hawaiian bobtail squid; how the beewolf wasp (since long before Fleming chanced upon penicillin) squirts its larvae with bacterial paste to give them the protection of antibiotics as they transform into adults; how human babies are slathered in microbe-infested mucus as they are delivered through their mothers’ vagina, the gift of life being accompanied by the gift of bugs to seed their childhood microbiome; how a mother’s milk is formulated not just to feed her baby but to keep those bacteria happy too; and how the microbes in its gut may well affect how that growing child thinks and behaves."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Damage Control, by Michael Bowen
2. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
3. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
4. Jane Eyre Couture Classics, by Charlotte Bronte
5. The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
6. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
7. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
8. The Orchardist, by Amanda Colpin
9. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
10. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie

Atwood continues her speculative track with The Heart Goes Last, now in paperback. I think Stacey May Fowles in The Toronto Globe and Mail captured the story's heart: "Though Atwood is obviously delivering a serious lesson about societal greed and human exploitation, it’s frankly an amazing achievement how jovial The Heart Goes Last is from start to Shakespearean-style comedic finish. The novel is certainly a dystopian effort that belongs on the same hallowed list as Brave New World, 1984 and Atwood’s own masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, but it also manages to be a whole lot of quirky, poppy fun, without ever once undermining its core message."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. LGBT Milwaukee, by Michail Takach
2. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
4. Bettyville, by George Hodgman
5. Fast and Easy Five Ingredient Recipes, by Philia Kelnhofer
6. The Social Animal, by David Brooks
7. Known and Strange Things, by Teju Cole
8. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari
9. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
10. Florence Foster Jenkins, by Nicholas Martin and Jasper Rees

Florence Foster Jenkins is playing at the Downer Theater (at least through Thursday), and that has probably helped Nicholas Martin and Jasper Rees's biography, also called Florence Foster Jenkins: The Inspiring True Story of the World's Worst Singer. Nicholas Martin wrote the screenplay based on the biography by Rees, but Martin got first billing. From The Telegraph: "A delightful new comedy starring Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins and Hugh Grant as St Clair Bayfield brings her name (and his) to wider attention than ever before. The script by Nicholas Martin celebrates a woman who still inspires affection for her utter refusal to dwell on her limitations or to be cowed by mockery."

Books for Kids:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
2. Framed, by James Ponti
3. Author's Odyssey, by Chris Colfer
4. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
5. Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site new edition, by Sherri Duskey Rinker with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld
6. United as One, by Pittacus Lore
7. Summerlost, by Ally Condie
8. Alan's Big Scary Teeth, by Peter Jarvis
9. Stories from Bug Garden, by Lisa Moser with illustrations by Gwen Millward (event today at 2 pm)
10. The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown

Framed: A T.O.A.S.T Mystery is the newest book from James Ponti, who will be appearing at schools for Boswell with Kevin Sands. We have two schools booked, but if you're an educator, you might want to contact Todd as we still have one slot open for his last September event. Booklist writes: "In this entertaining, fast-paced mystery, seventh-grader Florian Bates is surprised to find himself helping the FBI solve the theft of millions of dollars' worth of stolen paintings from the National Gallery, in D.C." and notes that this is the first in a series.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews one of the new releases in the Object Lessons series: "People with a paranoid streak will feel vindicated by Evan Kindley's Questionnaire, a thoughtful exploration of the subject from the Proust questionnaire through Buzzfeed quizzes. As Kindley documents, nearly everyone who puts a quiz in front of you is trying to mine something from you, often (though not always) for profit or to influence your behavior." He notes that "The Object Lessons books I've looked into are smart and packed with ideas, but accessible. They're also elegantly designed small paperbacks, about 25,000 words each."

Check out our selection of Object Lessons books. We're thrilled to note that when we sort by demand in Ingram, Milwaukeean John Garrison's Glass comes out #1! Coming on September 7 are two new releases, Personal Stereo and Sock.

Also in the paper is an interview with Jacqueline Woodson for her new novel Another Brooklyn. From Tom Beer's piece, originally appearing in Newsday. On New York in the 70s and 80s: "You know, that is totally about the gaze — who is doing the looking, and where they are in the narrative. I never saw the place that I called home as a dangerous place. I never felt unsafe walking through the streets of black neighborhoods — I’m black. It was always more dangerous for me going someplace like Ridgewood [in Queens], which was white, where the message was, you will get beaten up or killed there. It’s very easy for people to say something is one way or the other without looking at the different layers to a place. New York has always been this very layered place."

And Connie Ogle interviews Krys Lee for How I Became a North Korean, originally printed in the Miami Herald. Ogle writes: "In the stories of her first book, “Drifting House,” Lee — an assistant professor of literature and creative writing in Seoul, South Korea — explored questions of country and identity, past and future, in North and South Korea, as well as in the United States. In “How I Became a North Korean,” she narrows her focus to a single place: China, along its border with North Korea, where three young people cross paths after escaping their homelands."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Bookstore visits - Evanston and Appleton

Jen and I went to the Windy City Gift Show in July to see if we could find some interesting lines. We wound up picking up only one new vendor, an importer of wooden holiday ornaments, as well key chains, magnets, and multiple size plaques. Everything is made up of different colored woods. I'd ignored them in the past, but by focusing on just the ornaments and just on the images that would work at Boswell (as opposed to palm trees, for example), I think they'll work.

We drove back on Devon to eat Indian food and that left us within a short distance of Evanston. I'd wanted to go to Bookends and Beginnings since they'd opened, taking about half the space of the old Bookman's Alley. The store is literally on an alley off a main street downtown, and there's something almost cavelike about the atmosphere. 

The store, opened by Nina Barrett in 2014, is a new-used hybrid, filled with interesting displays. I found several books on their new release tables that caught my interest, such as the book version of Whit Stillman's Love and Friendship. Jen and I admired some of their gift items, such as the posters from Obvious State. And in the kids section, I loved this collection of books from other countries.  I've never seen anything like it!

Another kid-friendly tidbit is that their storytime features my old bookseller colleague Chris Kennelly in a rotating slot. I wound up being practical and purchasing She Weeps Each Time You're Born, the Quan Barry novel that we will be reading at the in-store lit group on September 6, 7 pm.

Another bookstore visit happened on a recent visit to Appleton, when we went for a family funeral. Kirk's Uncle Keith's vocation was insurance agent, but he was a man with any number of avocations, including travel, collection (watches, pipes, musical recordings), and art. There's so much artistic ability in Kirk's family - both Kirk's mother and sister are very talented - I'm expecting to start seeing canvases around the house.

Speaking of pipes, I am now going to confess that in between the service and the brunch, I stopped by Pages and Pipes, the bookstore in downtown Appleton. I'm fascinated by this store, as its located in the hometown of the Book World stores, the stores that do small towns through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and even North Dakota.

But the thing is, this store, while in BPDI's home market, is not actually part of the Book World chain. There's at least one other location in Oshkosh, with a different name, called Paper Tiger. I swear these stores look so much alike and even their websites feel like they were designed by the same person (particularly their tobacco pages), but since I don't know anyone there, I'll never know. Help me solve this mystery! Is the relationship cousins or coincidence?

Pages and Pipes has a distinctive look that generally features at least one wall of magazines, as if, like Book World and Books-A-Million (BAM!), they once had ties to a magazine wholesaler. There was a focus on mass markets I hadn't seen for years, and sections like Dungeons and Dragons that brought me back to the days of buying for the Dickens Discount Books in Kenosha and Gurnee. Good times!

Coming up, more visits to bookstores in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Boswell Happenings: Michael Bowen, Michail Takach, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and Lisa Moser

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week.

Tuesday, August 23, 7:00 pm, at Boswell
Michael Bowen, author of Damage Control

Milwaukee's Michael Bowen may no longer be a full-time lawyer, but he's got many years of lawyerly stories that will inspire many mysteries to come. A graduate of Harvard Law with a passion for politics going back to his teens, Bowen penned an earlier D.C.based series that began with 1990's Washington Deceased and continued through Collateral Damage, focused on retired Foreign Service Officer Richard Michaelson. His new anti-heroine, Josie Kendall, is as different from Michaelson as contemporary Washington is from the capital as it was 25 years ago.

Here's a little more about Damage Control. When shadowy gray market hustler and aspiring crony capitalist Jerzy Schroeder is murdered while Josie Kendall is hitting him up for a million dollars to help him cash in on alternative energy funding, the police suspect her of adultery and her husband, Rafe, of homicide. Josie, who works for Majority Values Coalition, an activist fundraising organization, is a new but passionate DC player. Suave Rafe, long a Washington insider, also long a widower, is passionate about Josie. He’s on a new track as a literary agent and supporting Josie’s how-Washington-works learning curve. For Josie and Rafe, this isn't a murder investigation but a political damage-control problem. They attack the issue with an array of finely tuned skills: strategic leaks, manipulation of the media, judicious use of inside information, and a flexible attitude toward the truth - plus the assistance of Josie's Uncle Darius, a veteran spin doctor with surprising connections, who - luckily - is out on parole.

They'll need a full arsenal, since, as one capital insider points out, "A damage control strategy that hasn't succeeded within thirty days has failed." Along the way, Josie, juggling plot lines, will have to decide whether there are ethical lines that even she won't cross. A proposal from Schroeder's ex-wife, Ann DeHoin, known as “The Gray Lady,” thanks to her wardrobe, shows Josie that she was (and probably still is) being gamed. To what end? The priority here is to figure out what the game is before the body count rises, while staying on mission at MVC, which gets money from people committed to a cause, spends part of it promoting that cause through channels like running ads, and keeps the rest. In this contemporary House of Cards scenario, determining who actually murdered Schroeder is a low-priority problem but Josie manages to do that as well. It's all in a day's (well, thirty days') work.

As he did for his previous visit, Michael Bowen will be donating his proceeds from this event to Literacy Services of Wisconsin.

Thursday, August 25, 7:00 pm, at Boswell
Michail Takach, author of LGBT Milwaukee

This event is cosponsored by Milwaukee Pride and Outwords Books, Gifts, and Coffee

As a lifelong Milwaukeean, Michail Takach became fascinated with its nightlife culture, venues, and neighborhoods at a young age and has committed himself to researching and documenting those stories not told in history books. Now with the help of Don Schamb, who has worked with the Milwaukee AIDS Project (now ARCW), Milwaukee Gamma, the Cream City Foundation, and now the LGBT History project, Milwaukee Pride Communications Director Takach has put together LGBT Milwaukee, the newest release from Arcadia's Images of America.

For a medium-size Rust Belt city with German Protestant roots, Milwaukee was an unlikely place for gay and lesbian culture to bloom before the Stonewall Riots. It is said there were 36 gay bars already open in Milwaukee before Stonewall, a number matched only by New York and San Francisco. However, Milwaukee eventually had as many--if not more--known LGBTQ gathering places as Minneapolis or Chicago, ranging from the back rooms of the 1960s to the video bars of the 1980s to the guerrilla gay bars of today.

Over the past 75 years, people in the LGBT community have experienced tremendous social change in America. Gay and lesbian culture, once considered a twilight world that could not be spoken of in daylight, has become today’s rainbow families, marriage equality victories, and popular pride celebrations.

All author proceeds from LGBT Milwaukee will benefit Milwaukee Pride, a 501c3 nonproft dedicated to year-round local LGBTQ history education programs.

Saturday, August 27, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, author of Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide: A Memoir
We're grateful to help from Cope Services and Community Advocates for helping get the word out about this event.

Darryl McDaniels “DMC” made his start in the music business with the groundbreaking rap group Run-D.M.C., which he founded with Joseph (Rev. Run) Simmons and the late, great Jason (Jam Master Jay) Mizell. The multi-platinum music group has sold more than thirty million singles and albums worldwide, and has had a major influence on popular culture, transforming Rap and Hip Hop into the most popular music in the world and building a fan base that rivals the biggest acts in Rock ’n’ Roll.

As one third of the legendary rap group Run-D.M.C., Darryl “DMC” McDaniels—aka Legendary MC, The Devastating Mic Controller, and the King of Rock—had it all: talent, money, fame, prestige. While hitting #1 on the Billboard charts was exhilarating, the group’s success soon became overwhelming. A creative guy who enjoyed being at home alone or with his family, DMC turned to alcohol to numb himself, a retreat that became an addiction. For years, he went through the motions. But in 1997, when intoxication could no longer keep the pain at bay, he plunged into severe depression and became suicidal. But he wasn’t alone. During the same period, suicide became the number three leading cause of death among black people - a health crisis that continues to this day.

In this memoir, DMC speaks openly about his emotional and psychological struggles and the impact on his life, and addresses the many reasons that led him—and thousands of others—to consider suicide. Some of the factors include not being true to who you are, feelings of loneliness, isolation, and alienation, and a lack of understanding and support from friends and family when it’s needed most. He also provides essential information on resources for getting help. Revealing how even the most successful people can suffer from depression, DMC offers inspiration for everyone in pain—information and insight that he hopes can help save other lives.

Here's a Boswell and Books blog post that talks more about Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide.

Sunday, August 28, 2:00 pm, at Boswell:
Stories and activities with Lisa Moser, author of Stories from Bug Garden

Grafton's Lisa Moser is the author of the early readers The Monster in the Backpack and Squirrel’s Fun Day as well as many picture books, including Kisses on the Wind, and the sadly now out-of-print Railroad Hank. Come to Boswell for a bug-tastic afternoon. We'll make bookworms and have other activities, as well as a storytime.

What may appear to be an abandoned garden is actually home to an unusual array of insects. Meet a ladybug who prefers making mud angels to acting like a lady, a roly-poly bug who loves to roll (“wa-hoo!”), a cricket who dreams of grand adventures, and a whole neighborhood of bugs gazing up at a fireworks show of flowers bursting into bloom. These inviting vignettes are sure to have readers seeing bugs in a whole new light.

Join us for an afternoon of bug related poetry and activities with Wisconsin’s own Lisa Moser. We’ve been having so much fun selling this book since spring, and decided we absolutely had to do more to let you know about it. It’s summer now when you take bugs for granted, but in January, you’ll be thinking about dragonflies and crickets and grasshoppers and Stories from Bug Garden can be your memory book.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What's on the Boswell bestseller list for the week ending August 20, 2016? (plus the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page)

Here's what's selling at Boswell.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Humane Economy, by Wayne Pacelle
2. Wisconsin on the Air, by Jack Mitchell
3. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer
4. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
5. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
6. The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward
7. John Bascom and the Origins of the Wisconsin Idea, by J. David Hoeveler (event 9/7, 7 pm, at Boswell)
8. The Hapsburg Empire, by Pieter M. Judson
9. Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, by Ron Faiola
10. Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, by Darryl McDaniels (event 8/27, 7 pm, at Boswell)

Several weeks ago we linked to the Journal Sentinel's review of The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, where Jim Higgins noted that "contributors articulate the distress of being unvalued, diminished and continually on guard because of their blackness." The anthology has received much attention, including this Vogue piece from Rachel Benegal that looks at the collection's origin: "When news of the killing of Trayvon Martin broke in February 2012, for Jesmyn Ward it deepened a wound both personal and shared, and confirmed, with grotesque prescience, the necessity of the book she was then writing. Four months prior she’d won the National Book Award for her tough and extraordinary novel Salvage the Bones, about a Mississippi Gulf Coast family who survives Hurricane Katrina. That winter, Ward, pregnant with her first child, was in the midst of revising her memoir Men We Reaped, a requiem that chronicles and connects the deaths of five young black men in her own life - her brother, her cousin, her friends - who died between 2000 and 2004."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
2. LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
3. The Girls, by Emma Cline
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
6. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
7. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
8. Truly Madly Guilty, by Linae Moriarty
9. Barkskins, by Annie Proulx
10. First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin

Not a big week for releases, so most readers are familiar with this week's top ten. When I was in Nashville this week (more about this on a future post), I heard that Louise Erdrich had a wonderful event with Jane Hamilton. Coming soon is our event with Ann Patchett and Jane Hamilton (tickets available here). And somewhere out there was probably an amazing event with Erdrich and Patchett, completing the triangle. I just don't know where it was and when, or perhaps it's coming up in October. From the Los Angeles Times, Thomas Curwen wrote about Erdrich's newest: "The rewards of LaRose lie in the quick unraveling and the slow reconstruction of these lives to a moment when animosities resolve, like shards of glass in a kaleidoscope, into clarity and understanding. While the ending may seem formulaic — a gathering of the young and old, the living and the dead — it is a benediction on the searing forces that preceded it. Told with constraint and conviction, the conclusion of LaRose is its own balm, a peace not easily won but won nonetheless.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. One Bead at a Time, by Beverly Little Thunder
2. Known and Strange Things, by Teju Cole
3. Application for Release from the Dream, by Tony Hoagland
4. My Grandfather Would have Shot Me, by Jennifer Teege with Nikola Sellmair
5. LGBT Milwaukee, by Michail Takach (event 8/25, 7 pm)
6. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
7. The Bond, by Wayne Pacelle
8. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
9. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
10. Happiness Is..., by Lisa Swerling

After two novels, Open City, which won the PEN/Hemingway award, and Every Day is for the Thief, which was published by Random House second, but was actually released internationally earlier, Teju Cole now offers his first collection of essays, Known and Strange Things. There's been lots of write-ups about this book, which was published as a paperback original, which led to me asking our buyer Jason about whether our Random House discussed why the book was not done as a hardcover first. Hey, it worked, as the book popped onto our bestseller list this week. Rebecca Foster in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Cole "collects 55 short pieces — drawn from the author’s prolific output during eight years of near-constant travel and writing — under three headings: literature, the visual arts and travel."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
2. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
3. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart
6. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
7. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
8. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
9. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
10. My Sunshine Away, by Mo Walsh

Sharon's got a staff rec on Mo Walsh's My Sunshine Away, the story of the sexual assault on a teenager in 1980s Baton Rouge, a city that is now in the news for the devastating flooding. Nagel writes that though the story is about a neighbor boy's search for the attacker, it's about so much more: "A parent’s hopes and fears for her child, high school survival, first love, lost innocence, and the often difficult passage into adulthood. A fantastic offering by an author that remembers what it is like to be a teenager, and allows the reader to do so as well." And Meredith Maran in the Chicago Tribune called My Sunshine Away "a rich, unexpected, exceptional book."

Books for Kids:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, by J.K. Rowling
2. Sophie's Squash Goes to School, by Pat Zietlow Miller
3. Sophie's Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller
4. Sharing the Bread, by Pat Zietlow Miller
5. Dark Days V3, by James Ponti
6. Thank You Book, by Mo Willems
7. Dead City V1, by James Ponti
8. Blue Moon V2, by James Ponti
9. The Blackthorn Key V1, by Kevin Sands
10. Julia's House for Lost Creatures, by Ben Hatke

You're beginning to see our fall school events getting advance sales. James Ponti is visiting schools with Kevin Sands for his new release, Framed, which comes out on Tuesday. Of the Dead City series, Suzanne Collins called it "a tween takes on undead New Yorkers in this paranormal action-adventure that breathes new life into the zombie genre." Pat Zietlow Miller is also visiting schools for Sophie's Squash Goes to School. These three authors don't have public events with Boswell. If you're an educator learning more about our authors-in-schools program, contact us.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews The Underground Railroad on the TapBooks page. As Jason and I discussed, Doubleday moving up the pub date for the Oprah's Book Club has probably played havoc with reviewers' schedules. Higgins writes: "Like everyone else living in the Oprahsphere, I'd heard the cool concept of Whitehead's novel: The Underground Railroad as an actual railroad. Whitehead threads this alternative reality ingeniously through this otherwise realistic and often harrowing novel." His conclusion?: "Whitehead's book is a novel, not an op-ed. But I can't help feeling that it also communicates a message for today: The Underground Railroad is still under construction. Keep swinging your pickax."

Mike Fischer writes about our continuing fascination with Alaska as a setting, which might explain why we currently have an Alaska table at Boswell: He writes in the Journal Sentinel: This month, Alaskan Eowyn Ivey has returned to the setting of her The Snow Child with a second novel set in Alaska before statehood: To the Bright Edge of the World. Inspired by an actual 1885 expedition into unmapped Alaskan territory, it continues a long line of American fiction in which the wilderness tests our rationalist assumptions involving how the world works and what it contains."

And finally, the Journal Sentinel reprints Heidi Stevens' take on Amy Schumer's new memoir, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, which has already hit our bestseller list. She writes in this review, originally appearing in the Chicago Tribune: "After some initial throat-clearing in the first 30 pages (the book's weakest), Schumer weaves a brave, vulnerable tale without falling into the usual celebrity traps of neediness and defense. She writes about her dad's multiple sclerosis, a sexual assault she endured as a teenager, her experience living with an abusive boyfriend, her parents' multiple failed marriages and her own reckoning with an entertainment industry that prizes appearance over substance. In so doing, she subtly offers a rationale for all this self-revealing: It strengthens you."

Friday, August 19, 2016

A librarian detective in 18th century China - on Elsa Hart's "Jade Dragon Mountain"

Mysteries! I was looking back at my old reading lists and noticed that when I discovered someone I liked, like Elmore Leonard, for example, I would read everything I could get my hands on. In his case, I even read the westerns. Eventually I'd burn out and let the author go but it could take years. If you are an Elmore Leonard fan, by the way, I would suggest you try Nicholas Petrie's The Drifter, just out in paperback. It's like Leonard on steroids. Todd and I have just read the next Petrie, Burning Bright, and it's a more straightforward thriller, but the reads are great and we're very excited for it's release next January. Let us reserve a copy for you.

Usually just one book in a series does it for me, even when I really like the book. I think about Case Histories, the classic Kate Atkinson novel. This book, which I didn't even know would be a series, was a hybrid, a literary-mystery mashup that was doing ten interesting things at once. It was a amazing and lots of other folks thought so too - back at Schwartz, we sold over 1000 copies the first year in paperback. I liked it so much I read the second Jackson Brodie too, and One Good Turn was excellent too, but to me, it was more of the genre than smashing the genre.

We host a lot of mystery authors, and that keeps me reading in the genre. But lately I've been reading mysteries even when we're not hosting the author. And the main reason for that is that mystery readers take suggestions, perhaps at a greater rate than any other kind of book that I read. If they read noir, that doesn't mean they'll take your advice on a cozy, and vice versa. But if you describe it right and find a book that overlaps with your taste, they'll try it. It was certainly the case for Shady Hollow, the mystery co-written by former bookseller Jocelyn and current bookseller Sharon, under the pseudonym Juneau Black. We've sold over 100 copies of the book after our event pop, and many of them have been to folks who didn't know either Jocelyn or Sharon.

So this led me to Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart. It's a first novel that had strong reviews from Oline Cogdill at the Associated Press, who called it "a compelling look at Chinese politics, culture and religion, delivering the complexities of each with a character-rich story" and Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal wrote that "in addition to being a satisfying mystery, Jade Dragon Mountain also powerfully evokes the aesthetics of the time and place it describes." Our mystery reader Anne was a fan. And I was even more intrigued that Pam (who just recently retired) was also a big fan. Plus it was an Anne pick from our spring-summer book club flier. And it had a lot more going for it:
1. According to reviews, the novel also worked as a historical, increasing the market.
2. The protagonist was a librarian, which is always a bonus
3. It's set in China, so I could send my copy to my sister Claudia after I was finished.

Here's the setup. Li Du was a librarian in the Forbidden City, but he was exiled after it turned out that he had befriended some people who turned out to be traitors. He's shown up in Dayan, a remote city by the Tibetan border, where his cousin Talishen is the magistrate, and preparing for a visit from the Emperor. This is a time when the Jesuits were favored by the court, and yes, there are a few Jesuits in attendance, including Brother Pieter, who speaks fluent Chinese (another reason to pay attention to the book--Milwaukee's Marquette is a Jesuit school). There's also someone from the East India Company, who is trying to jumpstart trade, and another younger Jesuit who is studying the plant life. Li Du befriends Hamza, a traveling storyteller, and Mu Gao, the old librarian, as well his cousin's assistant and his main consort, who is running the house, being that he left his wives back in Beijing.

So yes, there's a murder and while Li Du is no detective, he pays a lot of attention to details, and Talishen is worried that the murder will throw off the festivities. If Li Du solves the murder, he'll plead his case to the Emperor to let him come back to Beijing. So this is not an easy task - there are lots of motives floating about and just about everyone involved is hiding something.

So I was talking about the book to another bookseller friend who said that they liked neither mysteries, nor historicals, and weren't too keen regarding books with Chinese settings either. But rule number one for a bookseller is "Give me a book and no matter how good, we can find someone who hates it." And while I thought the book had a bit of a slow setup, by the second half, I was completely into it. The resolution didn't feel like a cheat, and there was actually a double twist. Plus I wound up really liking the friendship between Li Du and Hamza.

I think I can help sell this in paperback, but we'll see how it goes. We already had a great running start in hardcover, having sold 24 copies, which is pretty good for a non-local, non-event, non-bestseller first novel.

Oh, and that's the other thing about why it's fun to recommend mysteries. If your rec turns out to be a hit, many of the readers will wind up continuing to read subsequent books, to a much larger extent than happens with non-series fiction.

So think of it as a cross between Qiu Xiaoling's Death of a Red Heroine and the historical novels of Lisa See or Gail Tsukiyama (though most folks know her Japanese novels, she also writes about novels set in China). Meanwhile, Elsa Hart's second novel featuring Li Du, The White Mirror, comes out September 6. We'll see what Anne says about it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

More on Darryl McDaniels, coming to Boswell on Saturday, August 27, 7 pm, for "Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide."

I can't stop thinking about Darryl McDaniels and his book, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide. I picked up the book because he's coming to Boswell on Saturday, August 27, 7 pm (the event is free, but you must purchase a book to get in the signing line) but the book resonated with me in a number of different ways.

For one thing, Mr. McDaniels grew up only about five miles from me, in Hollis Queens. When I would very occasionally walk home from the subway train, would walk down Hillside Avenue, not really too far from his house. Some of the Black kids I went to school with lived in Hollis and nearby St. Albans. So while McDaniels himself went to Catholic school, I probably had classes with some of his neighbors - I'm a bit older than him, but not by much.

As a New Yorker who was still living in New York, when Run-D.M.C. broke out, songs like "Sucker M.C.'s" and "It's Like That" were ubiquitous on the radio, even if you weren't particularly focused on hip hop. I tended to listen all over the dial. You probably won't be surprised to find out in the early 1980s, I would continuously move the radio dial and count how many times I heard each song, and then tabulate the numbers each week, sitting at a folding card table in a studio apartment in Queens with a very good few of the famous Elmhurst tanks. I would call this the New York Radio Frequency Chart. I do wish I could find that folder with all the little charts I compiled. See, there were plenty of time sucks before the internet.

I've been trying to do some outreach to help the event along. Our friends at Cope Services has agreed to spread the word. Their helpline in Ozaukee County helps folks all over the Southeast Wisconsin area. I've lost folks to suicide over the years (including at least one coworker and more than one customer) and I know how important these hotlines can be.We also know that our friends at Community Advocates are on the case. Please check out the work of both these fine organizations.

After reading Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, I understood that adoption is also a cause near and dear to McDaniels' heart. His story about how he learned he was adopted and came to love both his his adopted and birth family is quite touching, almost as much as how he came to fall in love with Sarah McLachlan's Angel. I literally teared up, and I had to dig out my CD of Surfacing so I could play the song. My favorite Sarah McLachlan song continues to be "Possession."

Alas, I was more of a wimpy DC fan instead of Marvel, and even my Batman reading focused on the less dark stories of the late sixties and early seventies. I particularly liked the Legion of Super Heroes and the weirder the power, the better. Rest in peace, Ferro Lad, the boy who could sort of do nothing! And thank you Wikipedia for the story behind Ferro Lad, who was meant to be the first Black Legionnaire.

So thanks to Darryl McDaniels for writing this and appearing. And thanks to Darrell Dawsey, who helped McDaniels get the book written. And thanks to Amistad Press, who let us host a public event in conjunction with a private fundraiser Mr. McDaniels is doing in town. Thank you to Cope Services and Community Advocates to getting the word out. And if you come to our event on Saturday, August 27, 7 pm, I'll thank you too.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Events this week: Beverly Little Thunder, Jack Mitchell in conversation with Kathleen Dunn, Wayne Pacelle

Here's what's going on at Boswell this week:

Wednesday, August 17, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Wayne Pacelle, author of The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals. Pacelle will be introduced by Anne Reed, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Humane Society.

During his more than twenty years with The Humane Society of the United States, including a decade as president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle has played a leading role in transforming the organization, the nation’s largest animal protection charity, into a dynamic public force and voice for all animals. He was named an Executive of the Year by NonProfit Times in 2005 for his leadership in responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis. A graduate of Yale University, he is also author of The Bond.

Here are some recommendations for Pacelle's The Humane Economy.

"Essential reading for anyone interested in animal welfare. This fabulous book reveals the inside story of how the fight against human cruelty to animals is gradually being won. A fascinating, highly readable, and remarkably comprehensive book." --Jane Goodall

"A critically important read for anyone who cares about business succes or animals -- or, like so many of us, both." --Jack Welch, founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute"

"The Humane Economy is a brilliant book that celebrates the truth: our economic wellbeing is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of animals. This book is an important moral and pragmatic blueprint for humane, enlightened prosperity for all." --U.S. Senator Cory Booker

Here's Caroline Abels profiling Wayne Pacelle in Civil Eats.

Thursday, August 18, 7.00 pm, at Boswell:
Jack Mitchell, author of Wisconsin on the Air: 100 Years of Public Broadcasting in the State That Invented It, in conversation with Kathleen Dunn of Wisconsin Public RadioThis event is cosponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Jack Mitchell, PhD, led Wisconsin Public Radio from 1976 till 1997, initiating the transition from educational radio to WPR. Mitchell was the first employee of National Public Radio, where he was instrumental in developing the groundbreaking newsmagazine All Things Considered. He received the two highest honors in public radio: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Edward R. Murrow Award and the Edward Elson National Public Radio Distinguished Service Award. Mitchell joined the faculty of the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1998. He is the author of Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio.

Mitchell will be in conversation with Kathleen Dunn for this event, cosponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio. Dunn’s first job in radio was at a small station in North Carolina. Then after 18 years at Milwaukee’s WTMJ, she came to Wisconsin Public Radio in 1993. Dunn has a deep interest in the news of the day, world affairs, arts and culture.

From Isthmus, here's a review of the book From Bill Lueders: "Mitchell, a still-active UW-Madison journalism professor emeritus, headed WPR from 1976 to 1997. He brings an insider’s knowledge and true believer’s passion to the tale of how public broadcasting in Wisconsin has struggled to provide quality programming within a maelstrom of reactive public officials, alternatively devoted and volatile audiences and an alphabet soup (WHA, WPR, WPT, PBS, etc.) of interconnected but not always cooperative entities."

Friday, August 19, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Beverly Little Thunder, author of One Bead at a Time

Beverly Little Thunder, Lakota Elder, and women's activist, is a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Band from North Dakota. When she was forced to leave her Spiritual community because she was a lesbian, Beverly founded the Women's Sundance over 20 years ago to continue teaching the traditions and ceremonies of her heritage, including sweat lodge, talking circles, vision quests, and spiritual counseling.

From Sarya Pinto, author of Vatolandia and Pinol: Poems: "One Bead at a Time is a timely testimonial of the indomitable character and expansive vision necessary to break deeply set patterns of intergenerational intersectional oppression in one's personal and communal life. The capacity to transform tragedy into possibility, sadness into joy, and social exclusion into an invitation for belonging is perhaps the most powerful tool humanity has at its disposal during these critical times. Let this groundbreaking contribution inspire all of us to work together to reconstitute the circle of life."

Here's Paul Masterson's "My LGBT POV" column in the recent Shepherd Express, where he discusses Beverly Little Thunder's journey to create a Women's-only Sundance.